Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Strathclyde's online course, Introduction to Journalism. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Not everything that happens in your local community or in your country, not all the events that happen will make it into the next day newscasts or newspaper. And in fact, only a selected few of the hundreds or thousands of events that happen every single day make it into the news. So what audiences get on the next day when they open the newspaper and when they watch TV is not an actual representation of the previous day’s events, but is rather a selected view of what journalists found important of the things that happened. But how do journalists decide what to cover the next day and which events to pick and which to leave out?

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds They actually use a set of general guidelines to make their decisions on what to cover. And these guidelines are called news values. These news values are things that journalists learn very early in their career. Very often they learn it in journalism school or in the very first years of working on the job. And they soon become like second nature or a gut feeling. So journalists are able to identify which stories are newsworthy based on these news values without even thinking about it much once they get used to doing it. And so news values, there are different sets of news values that various scholars and practitioners have proposed.

Skip to 1 minute and 43 seconds So we’re going to go over some of the ones that are most popular and that you would see in the biggest number of different sets that are floating around. The first news value that we’ll discuss is timeliness. So what this means is something that has happened yesterday or in some cases that is even happening today or right now. As you saw from the definition of news, news is something that is new. So timeliness is actually one of the most important factors that would make a journalist decide whether something is newsworthy or not. So for example, an event that happened two weeks ago is not news anymore, because it’s too old of an event.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds A new development to that event that say happened yesterday or is happening today could already be potentially news, because there is a new element to it. The second very important news value that we need to discuss is proximity. So proximity means how distant from the audience is the event that the media are covering. And so for example, if an event happens here in Glasgow, that is close to the audience that the local media would be talking to. And so that’s very relevant and highly newsworthy. When an event happens say in Birmingham, that may or may not be seen as newsworthy, because it’s far away and so it would be less relevant to the local audience.

Skip to 3 minutes and 23 seconds The third news value that I want to draw your attention to is unusualness or surprise. So these are news stories that cover something that is unusual and doesn’t typically happen. So this is the kind of story that’s the ‘man bites dog’ type of news story that goes out of the ordinary. So for example, if somebody in the local community has a kennel for dogs, that’s not a big story, because it’s not unusual. A lot of people raise lots of dogs. If he is raising, for example, giraffes in the middle of Glasgow, that would be newsworthy, because you wouldn’t expect that. The fourth news value is bad news.

Skip to 4 minutes and 9 seconds And this is very often actually what ends up in newscasts or in the newspaper. This news value covers news with negative overtones. And that often includes conflict or tragedy. So for example, some explosion that also has loss of life or some other tragedy that results of that would be seen as more newsworthy than just an explosion, a local explosion that doesn’t involve any people with it and just happened randomly with nobody affected. Also stories that talk about conflict very often make it into the news, because again they get a tick under this news value of bad news. And they’re also very dynamic to report, so journalists very often end up covering those. The fifth news value is impact.

Skip to 5 minutes and 11 seconds So that concerns the number of people that get affected by something that is going on or that get involved. So for example, if an epidemic breaks out in a local hospital but there’s only two or three people affected, the impact of that is really low, because there’s only two or three people affected. So the local media may not actually cover that. If there are several hundred people who got infected, then this is a much bigger story. And it’s much more newsworthy because there’s several hundred people affected. By the same token, strikes of public transportation workers are very newsworthy stories because they potentially affect all the residents in a community, everybody who uses public transport.

Skip to 6 minutes and 2 seconds The next news value is celebrities or elite. So this news value basically says that things that have to do with famous people or with famous or powerful nations are things that people want to know about. And this news value is the reason for all the celebrity news or gossip that we tend to read in the newspaper, like things about Kim Kardashian’s wedding, which happened recently, or Paris Hilton or Kate Moss and other famous people. This news value also explains why certain nations make it into the international news flow more often than others. So for example, a lot of things that happen in America make it into the international news and people from other countries are well aware of them.

Skip to 6 minutes and 56 seconds On the other end of the spectrum, not many things that happen in Ghana, for example, or Uganda make it into the international news flow. And the rest of us don’t read much about those countries. And the difference here being that America is seen as a more elite nation. And therefore, things that happen there are more often seen as newsworthy as opposed to countries like Ghana or Uganda or many countries in Asia, for example. The next news value is entertainment. So here we have stories with human interest, so stories that talk about regular people doing regular things that are somehow noteworthy or interesting.

Skip to 7 minutes and 43 seconds Here we also have all the animal stories, so all the internet stories about cats can go in this category, or dogs if you’re a dog person. Also stories that involve humour or an unfolding drama, stories about kids, in general, feel-good stories that are also fun to read.

News values - part one

When journalists make decisions on what news stories to cover, they often use certain guidelines to help them.

These guidelines are called news values and include aspects such as timeliness, proximity, unusualness, human interest, conflict, impact, celebrities/elite, entertainment, bad news, and good news.

In the first part of this talk, Dr Eckler gives examples of news stories that fit with these news values as well as those that don’t. She explores why these news values are important to know as an aspiring journalist or an informed media consumer.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to Journalism

University of Strathclyde